Writers and journalists get asked this question A LOT. Especially when someone feels your coverage is picking on their favorite politician, actor, or sports figure. Instead of arguing the merits of a specific case, or defending their hero, their default is “Why aren’t you writing about [whatever makes ME angry this week]?
Well, I’ll tell you why.
- Writers work for money. You want us to write about your concerns, offer to pay us and we’re all yours.
- Writers often work on only one story at a time. It takes hours, days, sometimes even weeks to get all the answers and get first-level sources to respond. So your concern may be on the assignment board, but we haven’t gotten to it yet.
- Other writers may already be covering that story while we’re working on current commitments. If we don’t think we can get to it before it’s been covered, we’ll often take a pass. Or, we’ll consider researching the story in more depth, but that could take a while. Never assume that we’re not working on a story about your concerns or that we won’t in the future.
- If a story has already been thoroughly reported, why would we write about it all over again? Do a simple Google search and read the stories that are already out there. If there are already 20 versions of the same story then no matter how anxious the topic makes you, I’m not going to waste my time doing it again just to make you happy.
- At large publications and news outlets, editors will often assign specific people to “beats”. So for instance, during the current election cycle, a paper will have one writer tracking the Republican presidential candidate, another tracking the Democratic candidate, and others tracking specific issues or people. This is because is takes ungodly amounts of time to develop sources and information networks, and to become familiar with all the minutiae and nuances of specific issues. So crabbing that a reporter who follows the Republican candidate like a terrier doesn’t also write critiques of liberals is not going to accomplish much. If you have an idea for a new story or want to see something covered in more depth, write to the appropriate reporter.
- If you’re complaining about conspiracy theories, illiterate or phony Facebook memes, or something you read on a fringe site and we don’t respond, it’s probably because we’ve run out of aluminum foil.
- Don’t say, “who cares?!?” I know it sends people into a tizzy when writers and news reporters fuss about sources, who said what, and whether or not something has been verified. Writers care about detail. So do their editors and the people who pay them. You may be happy to shrug off the details, and that’s your prerogative. But you don’t have the right to say that a writer shouldn’t care about where his/her facts are coming from. Your ass isn’t the one that will be in a sling if the writer or reporter gets it wrong.
- We may not be interested. Simple as that. Writers have passions too. Which brings me to my last point …
- As a writer, it’s not our job to soothe your anxieties, and answer every question you have. You were taught how to read and pick up a pen. Blogging sites are free. If you can tweet ‘u r a corporate shill’ then you can use a keyboard. If something concerns you deeply and you feel it’s not being covered the way YOU want it covered, then write about it yourself!
Here’s what you CAN do:
- Stick to the topic. Writers are often expected to drill down into minute details and get verifiable (that means on PAPER) facts. It doesn’t help anyone if you’re dancing all over the place grabbing at other topics like a toddler chasing balloons.
- If you want to see something else discussed, ask the writer who they would recommend to cover that topic and go to that person. Usually they can recommend someone who has already covered your concern in depth.
- If you think a writer’s facts or assumptions are wrong, state why and provide your sources. Make sure your sources are high-level. Memes and low-level bloggers often regurgitate garbage or steal and then spin original material, so take a close look at whomever you’re using as a source.
- Discuss the topic rationally and remain civil. Don’t get all emotional and belligerent. Sure, there are topics that make us all angry. Sometimes something said will really get your goat. But if the only way you can communicate is to resort to trashy language and insults, no one is going to take you seriously. And you sure don’t want your mother to see stuff like that.
- Stop with the name-calling. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t automatically mean they are a flaming liberal or a Nazi-flavored alt-right-winger, a Monsanto shill or a moon-worshipping hippie. If you can’t handle disagreement without a meltdown, then you shouldn’t step outside your house in the morning, because sure as little green apples you will encounter someone who disagrees with you about something.
There’s plenty of meat, potatoes and vegetarian options in today’s news. I encourage you to read widely and examine many different points of view.
Also, if you follow my Facebook Page, I’ll be posting articles in the future about how to vett news and organization sites, how to recognize the red flags that indicate a site may be less than trustworthy, and how to quickly find and scan scientific studies.